It Was Nearly the ‘Holy Grail’ of Driving Tests…

A few months ago I wrote about getting ready to take the “practical” driving test for my British driver’s license, and I’m happy to say that I passed! Despite the assurances of various friends (who apparently believe they have powers of prognostication) that I was going to pass with flying colors, I had no illusions about it being a simple task. The road test is serious business, here, and the examiners are known to be strict. I just had to do my best and hope that I wasn’t clumsy on the day.

I won’t bore you with the whole re-telling; suffice to say I passed even though I did one thing which the examiner said would normally have been an instant fail. I should note that I still don’t really have a clear idea of what I did wrong, though he did tell me. “But the rest of your drive was absolutely perfect,” he said, “and I believe one must be sensible about such things, since you are clearly a good driver.” When my driving instructor saw him filling in the form as she walked up to the car she said with delight, “It’s the BLUE form! The blue form means good news!” Smiling, the examiner told her about my near-fail but added, “Deb was almost perfect – it was very nearly the ‘Holy Grail’ of driving tests.” So close!

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But in the end I don’t care about being perfect, I just care about getting that coveted UK driver’s license (though I cannot resist telling you that my instructor said I was her best test-result ever), and now I have it in my hot little hands at last. I will love it and hug it and I will call it Freedom.

When I returned, triumphant, my husband and I immediately headed out into that bright and happy day to get up into the high fresh air and enjoy the beauty, and to have a celebratory lunch in the village. That’s our village waaaaay down there between the hill and the sea.

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Since then we have done practical things like grocery shopping and taking the cat to the vet without having to ask anyone for transport. It is lovely to have the ability to decide to do something and then simply lock up and go.

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The fact that I’m the driver now means that I am no longer the photographer, at least not on the road. I do already miss being able to take in the landscape, since I now have to concentrate on what’s happening around me rather than simply staring happily out the window. Sem will have to practice his photography-on-the-fly skills!

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Fortunately, some of the roads we take are quiet enough that we can simply stop, take photos, and then continue on, like when we ran into this ‘stag party’ on the way home from a wander up north last week.

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Besides the practicalities of everyday life being easier with our own wheels, it’s been good to just get out together. For various reasons my husband hasn’t been able to get out as much as he used to (to the point where someone asked me a while back, “Have you buried Sem under the patio? I haven’t seen him in ages!”), and this new freedom is already making his daily life that much nicer. I enjoy going places with him and listening to his running commentary about the history, both general and personal, as we drive through countryside which he knows and loves so well.

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This, most of all, is why that little laminated card is so important to me. It’s great that we don’t have to ask anyone for rides anymore, or deal with the unbelievably time-consuming train journeys to get from one place to another, which was the original catalyst for this entire undertaking. Really, though, the reason why I wanted so much to pass my test on the first try was because I wanted to be able to get us out there into the sunshine, to all the places we no longer can walk to together, and to the many places Sem hasn’t yet been able to show me. We can do that, now.

I’ve never felt strongly one way or the other about driving. Back in the States it was just one of those things we all did, a necessity because so few things were easily accessible by walking or taking public transportation. Here, though, it will change our lives immeasurably in ways both big and small. The funny thing about life is that sometimes the “small” things are those which are actually of the greatest significance. Because if push came to shove, we could still get by without a car. Inconvenient perhaps, but not impossible. But getting out there on the open road together to places both near and far is priceless, specifically because it’s not something we could do before. I have spent a lot of time doing things “solo” over the past few years, and that has all changed with one successful 40-minute drive on a sunny April morning. To be perfectly honest I would have been devastated if I had failed the test. It would have been months before I could have gotten another test date, so passing on the first try was huge, for me, for more reasons than I have room to list. I’m not bad with words but I have none adequate to explain how vastly this changes both of our lives, in every good way.

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Plus, I will never again have to walk the half-mile down to the village (and back!) in the pouring rain just because we ran out of milk. It rains a lot in the Highlands, so this whole driving lark was pretty much worth the effort for that alone!

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Deb Segelitz
Deb Segelitz was born and raised in Pennsylvania, and is astounded to find herself living in the Scottish Highlands. Equally surprising to her is that she now has a small business restoring and selling old fountain pens. These two facts have convinced Deb that life is either beautifully random, or filled with destiny created by someone with a sense of humor. She hopes the fine north state residents will accept her as an honorary member, since she has some cousins in California who she visited once, but even more importantly because the north state folks she actually knows are fabulous people, who are also the reason for her presence here on anewscafe.com. An enthusiastic amateur photographer, Deb is grateful that she lives in a place that's about as point-and-shoot as it gets. Her tortoiseshell cat, Smartie, rates her as an average minion, too slow with the door-opening but not too bad on the food-dish-refilling, and her husband hasn't had her deported back to the States yet, so things must be going all right there, as well.
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20 Responses

  1. Erika says:

    There is cheering for you again here in the Isle of Long in New York!  I am one of the nuts who loves to drive, but I also appreciate it for the freedom it gives.  It changes everything!  Here’s to the open road!

    • Deb Segelitz says:

      Thank you!  I wish I loved to drive, since I suspect I will be doing a lot of it!  But I don’t mind it, and what I do love is the freedom it gives us.  Yay open road!

  2. Andrew Ditton says:

    LOVED that Deb! Well done you! I do wonder how folks in the Highlands cope without a car these days, especially given the lack of joined-up thinking in the Public Transport schedules. And, as you say, the weather!

    A lovely piece as ever, thank you 🙂

    • Deb Segelitz says:

      Thank you, Andrew!  I was surprised at how many people don’t have a car, here, but I think the expense has something to do with it.  It does require a lot of planning, though, as the bus and train schedules leave a lot to be desired, especially in the evenings.  Locally we have a couple of “community” buses which run people here and here, which have been a great benefit especially to the seniors.  We got by all right, but mainly due to the kindness of a very good friend who was generous with his time for these last few years.  He isn’t all that well himself, so I suspect at some point in the future I may be able to return the favor, at least somewhat, if he finds himself in a situation where he is no longer able to drive.

      I suppose that’s really how people cope, most of all – the kindness of their neighbors and the willingness to help each other 🙂

  3. A. Jacoby says:

    Ahhh, I always feel I’ve had a wee bit of a visit with the Travelocity Gnome when I read your offerings. . . . and it brings back the angst of my first driving test. Now they don’t make you parallel park on the stateside tests anymore and that really disappoints me because for some reason that’s one of the things I do best. Loved the “stag” party!! LOL!!

    • Deb Segelitz says:

      Heh!  I need a pointy gnome hat 🙂  I’m glad you enjoyed it!  Parallel parking was the thing I had to do, out of the 5 or 6 maneuvers the examiner could have chosen.  He had me do a hill-start too which was kind of hilarious because it’s an automatic car, so… no problem.  The first place we went to parallel park was a bust because “an auld wifie” was standing at the car we wanted to park behind and as she was having a nice old blether with her neighbor that was going to apparently take a while, we just weren’t going to get it done there.  The examiner sighed and said, “All right let’s just keep going, we’ll find somewhere else!”  He was lovely, really, and we chatted about politics (“please tell me they aren’t going to vote for Trump,” he said with trepidation) and the differences in US/UK driving.  He was an all-around nice man, and I could’ve kissed him when he told me I’d passed in spite of my near-fail!

      There were so many deer and stags there on both sides of the road!  We could just pull up and take photos while they munched (and posed), it was nice.

  4. Matt Grigsby says:

    I’m thrilled beyond words that you passed because I know how much this has meant to you.  However, and nearly as importantly, I look forward to you driving all of Northern California around in the back seat of your car!  Plunk us down, buckle us up and take us with you, because we are all eager passengers on your journeys.

    And…those stags!  Magnificent!

    • Deb Segelitz says:

      Thank you, Matt!  Buckle up, lovely friend, and bring along as many friends as you like 🙂

      I would love to hear the stags roar some day during the rut.  I’ve heard recordings and seen/heard it on TV but it must be amazing to hear them out there on the hillsides, roaring at each other and then CRACKCRASHTHUD their hard heads come together, antlers clacking.

      Plus some of the big roars sound like really loud beery burps which of course appeals to my completely immature sense of humor 🙂

  5. Sharon says:

    Wonderful news, my dear! YAY for freedom and the open road.

  6. Anne Gibbons (a Glesca lass) says:

    Good bye L Plates…hello Independence! Great feeling. I’m interested to know your opinion of L Plates? Personally, I like them: as a new driver, people stay out of your way and have more patience (pity?).

    You wrote, ” It is lovely to have the ability to decide to do something and then simply lock up and go.” I may be naive (imagine that!!), but I’m surprised you’re locking up. Is there more to that story?

    Thank you, Deb.

    • Deb Segelitz says:

      I liked having the L Plates, especially being new on the A9 up here.  I don’t know if people were more patient but they at least knew why I was taking the hilly curves at less-than-mad speeds!  Some people put green P plates on (I think it’s a P) for a while after passing but I decided against it.

      No one used to lock their doors here; sadly, things have changed.  Though if we’re only going somewhere briefly we leave the front door unlocked for the postie, but lock the back door – the theory being that someone up to mischief won’t hang about the front door but they would sneak round back and give that a try… so that’s the one that gets locked. But if we’re out for any length of time, everything gets locked.  Sheds outside, as well – too many things go missing otherwise!

      Sadly there has been a lot of coal theft over the last couple of winters, and even oil siphoned right out of tanks in back gardens.  Times are hard. 🙁

      Glad you enjoyed the article!

  7. Terry says:

    Congratulations, Deb! What a major accomplishment of which to be so proud.  Thank you for taking us all along on your wonderful journey.

  8. Oh, dear Deb, only you could make the acquisition of a drivers license sound like poetry. I’m so happy for you. Thank you for sharing your accomplishment with us, and for taking us along for the ride.

  9. Terrie says:

    I just found your columns! We are headed to Scotland in June.  I have read the the Scottish were not very friendly to visitors and have worried a bit about our visit.  It is nice to read all of your articles and look at the beautiful pictures.  My husband will do the driving so I will have him read this piece.  Where is that last picture of the village?  Thank you for sharing your stories.

    • Deb Segelitz says:

      Hi Terrie!  Glad you enjoyed the columns 🙂  I haven’t ever found the Scots to be unfriendly to visitors, though maybe that’s different in cities, I don’t know.  We get our share of tourists here in the village and from what I’ve seen the locals are friendly and helpful.  The last photo is of a village in the north of Scotland, about 70 miles north of Inverness.  Tourist places like to just sort of pretend that the Highlands end with Inverness, but at that point on the map they’ve hardly begun.  North of Inverness there’s lots of stunning scenery along coastal villages and towns – to me, that’s the Highlands at their best 🙂

      I just asked my husband – he said that people in cities are fine, and he hasn’t ever heard of Scots being unfriendly to visitors.  I suppose across any population you will get people who are rude but it’s not anything I’ve ever experienced here, and with my American accent I stick out like a sore thumb!  Mainly I’ve thought people have been interested and chatty.

      Since you and your husband will be driving I can say that locals get very frustrated if people don’t know what they’re doing on the roads, so for example if you just want a nice gentle meander along a pretty road and you notice a backup of cars forming behind you, find a place to pull over and let people pass.  They will very much appreciate that, for sure!  I hope you have a really wonderful trip, and that you have all good experiences, and great memories to look back on!

  10. Ginny says:

    Congratulations on passing your driving test.  Very happy to hear that you will be able to drive both you and Sem  around.  (Smile)

    Feel as though there is a back story about Sem, but whatever it is, you have adjusted to the new life.  I have said a prayer for both of you, Deb.

    Blessings.

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